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The Scriptorium

A Place for Everyone

And everyone in their place. Nehemiah 7.4-73

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 6-9.3 (3)

Pray Psalm 84.1-4.
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You.

Sing Psalm 84.1-4.
(Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
LORD of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling; how my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling of Your grace forevermore.
Like a bird upon the altar, let my life to You belong.
Blessed are they who never falter as they praise Your grace with song!

Read (quickly scan) Nehemiah 7.4-73; meditate on verses 4, 5, and 73.

1. What did Nehemiah do for the people?

2. Why was it necessary to do this?

Notice how Nehemiah begins his record of the returning exiles (Neh. 7.5), which is the same record as provided by Ezra 2.1-70. Let’s note two important things.

First, Nehemiah says “God put it into my heart” to record the census/genealogy that follows in this chapter. If there was ever any doubt in our minds about whether the genealogies of Scripture are inspired, this should dispel such doubt once and for all. The genealogies are a bit like the superscriptions in the psalms—which almost nobody reads. In our English versions, those superscriptions don’t even merit a verse numbering! But we should follow the Hebrew Bible and include those superscriptions as inspired text (cf. the superscription of Psalm 18 with 2 Sam. 22.1), just as the genealogies are. And we should consider that, as inspired texts, they have something of God’s love to teach us.

Second, Nehemiah assembled the whole population “to be registered by genealogy.” Here, he is updating the existing genealogy by having every person enrolled (the Hebrew verb is actually reflexive: “enrolled themselves”). With the temple rebuilt, the wall finished, and the people disbursed to their various cities and villages, it was time to go forward. And to do so, it was essential that the existing census and genealogies should be accurate and up to date. Here is yet another indication of the importance these documents held for the people of ancient Israel.

The attention given in Ezra and Nehemiah to getting the lists of names and pedigrees right should speak to us about the role of the genealogies of Scripture. It was important to know who’s in and who’s not when it came to laying hold on the promised blessings of God. The same is true today. Family records, church membership rolls, even theological and denominational traditions correspond in some ways to the making of genealogies. They can help us know who we are and from whom we are descended, where we belong, and how we fit into God’s project for knowing, loving, and serving Him.

But they must not divide us. All such records and traditions are part of the larger oneness we have in Jesus Christ. Such oneness was important in Nehemiah’s day. It is no less important today.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Nehemiah’s observation that “the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few” (Neh. 7.4) was a brief history lesson on what had precipitated their current situation: “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly…and do evil in the sight of the LORD your God to provoke Him to anger…the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you” (Deut. 4.25, 27). Remembering should negate a repeat. Thank you, Nehemiah.

But his statement also reminds us of Jesus’ observation of the multitudes, and His instruction concerning them: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matt. 9.36-38).

It seems that in our history, there are never enough of God’s people.
There were cities of God that needed filling.
There were godly laborers needed to seek the lost.
There are churches now that need filling.
Why? How is this possible?
To belong to God is to be most blessed.
Jesus has the words of eternal life (Jn. 6.68).
How can it be that people are not flocking to know Him?
Could the churches’ current state of captivity be off-putting?

We have the promise from God:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills;
and people shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say,
‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths’” (Mic. 4.1, 2).

There is indeed a place for everyone; and room for lots more.
Jesus likened the filling of the Kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast given by a king for his son.
He had invited many guests, but they preferred not to attend. The king responded by telling his servants,
“The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding” (Matt. 22.1-14).

We have been invited. We most certainly prefer to attend. And we have been given the privilege to invite as many as we find to attend the same marriage of the Lamb in the Kingdom of God (Rev. 19.9).

The city of God is large and spacious and will be filled with those who follow His ways and walk in His paths. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11.16).
Big enough for all those who call upon the Name of the Lord (Joel 2.32; Rom. 10.13).

For reflection
1. What is your role in helping to bring more people into the City of the Lord, His Church?

2. How do you seek to carry out this important role?

3. How can believers encourage one another to be more consistent in bearing witness to Jesus?

When, therefore, not only the nobles and officials but also all the common people had assembled before him, he diligently endeavored to make a census of their number so that, having made a review of the total of all the people, he might be able to determine which ones should dwell in the city of Jerusalem and which in the other cities. The Venerable Bede (672-735), On Ezra and Nehemiah 3.25

Pray Psalm 84.5-12.
Rejoice to be the dwelling-place and temple of the Lord, part of a long history of people, from every nation, tongue, and tribe, who constitute the City of the living God. Commit all your activities today as offerings for His glory.

Sing Psalm 84.5-12.
(Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Blessed are they whose strength is founded in Your strength, O LORD above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded journey in Your strength and love.
Though they weep with tears of sadness, grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your presence, filled with gladness, they shall conquer all their pain.

LORD of hosts, my prayer receiving, hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing; turn to me Your glorious face!
LORD, our sun, our shield, our glory, no good thing will You deny
to those who proclaim Your story, and who on Your grace rely.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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